Vocal powerhouse Keala Settle is a Tony-nominated actress and R&B singer who releases solo material as simply Keala. She was an experienced musical theater actress on Broadway and in touring productions before landing her "breakthrough" role in 2017's The Greatest Showman.
Born in Laie, Oahu, Hawaii to parents from England and New Zealand, Settle was educated in Hawaii until attending Southern Utah University after high school. She began her singing career as a studio vocalist and onetime backup singer for Gladys Knight in Las Vegas. Settle then pursued work behind the scenes in theater for several years between roles in national touring productions of Hairspray and South Pacific in the 2000s. She made her Broadway debut as Shirley in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in 2011. Her voice can be heard on the original Broadway cast recording released by Rhino the same year.
Two years later, in 2013, Settle originated the role of Norma Valverde in the musical Hands on a Hardbody. Despite running on Broadway for only a few weeks, it earned Settle nominations for a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Beginning in March 2014, she moved on to the role of Madame Thenardier in the revival of Les Misérables, and in 2015 she appeared in the film Ricki and the Flash alongside Meryl Streep. In March of 2016, she began a run as Becky in the Sara Bareilles musical Waitress.
Her most high-profile role to that point came when she was cast as bearded lady Lettie Lutz in 2017's The Greatest Showman, a film musical about circus mogul P.T. Barnum. Among original songs by the writing team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul was "This Is Me," a cast number with Settle singing lead. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song and included on a soundtrack that topped the Billboard 200.
The same week as the film's U.S. release in December 2017, Settle released her debut EP as Keala. A set of contemporary R&B-infused covers for the NoiseWells label, Chapter One landed on Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart. The follow-up, Chapter Two, arrived shortly thereafter in March 2018. In the meantime, NBC used "This Is Me" as an anthem for their 2018 Winter Olympics coverage. ~ Marcy Donelson